At the end of last year, ICANN decided to begin accepting applications for country code top-level domains (TLDs) in non-Latin scripts. At the time, they admitted it was only a first step, and that much work remained to be done. Last week, however, the first live examples of non-Latin TLDs were turned on. The domains in question are for Egypt: مصر (Egypt), Saudi Arabia: السعودية (AlSaudiah), and the United Arab Emirates: امارات (Emarat). Those domains support URLs being written entirely from right to left (so that the domain would come first).
As an example, a website that’s already using one of the new domains is http://وزارة-الأتصالات.مصر/ (it’s hard to see, but you should be able to make out the period that comes after the first few characters, as the URL is written right to left). This URL should lead you to the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology’s website.
The newest versions of all the major browsers are capable of handling internationalized domain names (IDNs). Your browser should load the correct site, though it might not display the Arabic URL in the address bar; it does depend on the domain whitelist and language settings of your browser. ICANN has helpfully posted a fairly detailed explanation of how to make the new domains look pretty in IE8, Firefox, and Opera.
In addition to the three Arabic domains mentioned above, ICANN has also approved the рф (rf) domain for the Russian Federation, with further work to occur at the Russian Internet Governance Forum that takes place this week.
I think we can all agree that this is a great development for the Web, helping to make it more accessible and usable to a much wider range of languages and cultures. Congrats to ICANN and these countries on a job well done!
Louis joined SitePoint in 2009 as a technical editor, and has since moved over into a web developer role at Flippa. He enjoys hip-hop, spicy food, and all things geeky.